Family, teachers, classmates honor boy killed in drive-by

Aiden McClendon was sitting in car with mother, grandmother when shot

The family of the 22-month-old boy shot and killed in a drive-by shooting last week were joined teachers and classmates of a Westside Head Start center Wednesday for a balloon release in honor of Aiden McClendon.

Aiden was sitting in a car with his mother and grandmother Friday night when the vehicle and neighboring homes were spayed with gunfire. Aiden died Saturday morning at UF Health Jacksonville.

"What we need to do is keep in mind that God needed another angel,"  said Valorie Wilson, Aiden's aunt. " He lit up with everybody he met. Just his laughter, his smile, his demeanor in itself."

Aiden had attended Episcopal Children's Services since he was six weeks old, with staff watching him take his first steps and speak his first words. Wilson and AIden's grandmother are both teachers at the center and spoke of the pain of knowing she will never see Aiden again.

"When it comes to you, you really don't know what to do," Valorie said. "I'm still kind of in a fog, but I know he's in a better place, and justice will be served."

The children, teachers and parents who came to the event knew and loved Aiden. Some of the children wore angel wings with the letter A in Aiden's memory. Some said they'll remember his sweet smile, his laugh and his signing voice.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said the shooting was gang-related and the killer has not be identified or arrested.

Family members and people with the school joined police and community leaders asking that anyone who knows anything about Aiden's shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.

"You know what you did," Wilson said. "He was an innocent child. It wasn't worth it. Just turn yourself in, that's all I ask."

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